LIBERTY COUNTY COURTHOUSE PROJECT
A Mill Levy request to build a new courthouse was on the 2022 ballot. Prior to the General Election, several public meetings were held, informative flyers were mailed out and information was posted on social media. The 2022 General Election results were: For - 408 and Against - 434.
See below to view the history of the courthouse building and to see some of the reasons why the project was proposed. The building is being monitored and records are being kept of the findings. For more information contact the Clerk & Recorder’s office.
7/24/2019 Liberty County Times article by Jesse Fulbright
Liberty County is rapidly approaching its 100th birthday and what a grand first century it has been! On November 4, 1919, voters residing in the Liberty County area, voted by a 75% majority vote to create a new county from Hill and Chouteau counties, becoming the 51st division of Montana to be created. Ninety days later, on February 11, 1920, Liberty County was officially born.
With the election results official, the search for a suitable building for county government began. Fortunately for Liberty County, there already existed in Chester what was referred to as, “a fine new building,” one built by Lee Crowell and Henry Schneider as a grocery and meat market in late 1916. The building was quoted as having a “foundation and superstructure…among the most substantial along the high line and…a great credit to the town.” The Crowell and Schneider building was going through a bit of a transition itself in late 1919. Lee Crowell had passed away a year earlier, and arrangements were made by early December 1919, for Liberty County to lease the brick building for county courthouse purposes. Due to the northern part of the courthouse still being in litigation over Crowell’s death, only the south side of the building could be used for county offices at first. With space already tight, the county also leased the A.C. Strode building, what is now Hi-Line Hardware, for use as a courtroom, jail and Sheriff’s Office. By late 1921, a lease had been arranged for the northern half of the courthouse building. With that the entire building was designated as the Liberty County Courthouse.
With the A.C. Strode building under lease for $150 a month for three years, beginning in 1920 as a courtroom, etc., it was determined by 1924 that the Courthouse should be enlarged to save the county money. It was estimated that improvements could be made for less than $10,000. The second floor to the Courthouse was completed by late October 1924 and included the current courtroom and current Clerk of Court’s office.
By the late 1940s it was decided again to expand the Courthouse, and so bonds for rebuilding the Liberty County jail and an addition to the Courthouse were sold to the Liberty County Bank. In June 1949, a $35,000 improvement to the Courthouse was announced to include a 60x30 two-story addition. The two-story addition was to extend 30 feet south of the present building. It was proposed that it house the Clerk and Treasurer vaults and a meeting room for county commissioners. The second story space was to be utilized by the Clerk of Court, ACS office and Welfare Office. The space in the jail addition was to be used for women and juvenile cells and a Sheriff’s Office.
The Liberty County Courthouse has stood the test of time for over 100 years now. It has faithfully served the needs of Liberty County, largely unchanged since 1949. However, even the best of buildings eventually wear down and stand in need of repair or replacement. Based on structural observations from a certified engineering firm earlier this year, Liberty County is now at a crossroads as it faces its second century. The basement, originally constructed in 1916 with local materials, is starting to crumble. The second floor of the Courthouse has also been found to be deficient under laws related to disability access. These issues, along with others great and small, are something that, will not unfortunately fade into the past.